The Phases of Church Leadership: Implementation

In this final posting of my series on five phases through which a church must move in order to experience and maintain strong health, I want to share the fifth and final phase. As a reminder, please read back through the first four. I have shared about Assessment, Identification, Vision Development and Adjustment. Now, the capstone to the process: Implementation.

Once the church assesses the past, the present, and the possibilities of the future, it can create a new profile of identity for both itself and the surrounding community. Then leaders are better equipped to develop the contextual vision plan by which the church will fulfill God’s mission. Before that plan can kick in specific adjustments must be made based upon this research and planning. These adjustments can be made with much more intelligence and biblical support because of the good work done in this process. Then it is time to implement the adjusted plan.

Leadership training and education will be a must in this phase. As the new vision is put into action, everyone needs to be on the same page and using the same vocabulary. The discipline of not only asking why some aspect of the vision is present but knowing the answers to the why will be significant. People in the church will need examples as well as exposition as they watch leaders moving forward in new ways with confidence and conviction. Lay people will also need additional equipping as the message and method of the new plan are enacted. They will also need excitement and enthusiasm as they are inspired by the leadership.

Also, be prepared to deal with any significant opposition to the new vision. It is one thing to discuss adjustment and its impact and quite another when the reality of it begins to sink in. Leaders may have to decide whether moving forward in a right and biblical way is worth losing some who may refuse to get on board. This is why it is so important that each phase of the process is explained and communicated well. The way implementation takes place should not be a surprise to the church if the foundational work has been carried out effectively.

As the train begins to move down the track in synergy remember it takes a while for that train to reach full speed. Reinforcement of the vision with clear messages full of relevant and redundant language will prove helpful. Explain, explain, and explain again.

And almost immediately the phase loop must be formed. As soon as implementation occurs, it is time to reintroduce assessment again and begin to weave through the phases as tweaking constantly takes place. If regular assessment and adjustment take place along the way there should hopefully not need to be radical change again for a while.

Remember the church is more than an institution. It is a living organism. Life is intended to be dynamic not static. Keep moving forward. Keep working this loop. God blesses intentionality. Let’s grow intentional churches.

The Phases of Church Leadership: Adjustment

In this series of posts concerning five phases a church must learn and experience in order to either move toward or remain in a state of growth and health I have identified the first three: Assessment, Identification, and Vision Development. Now comes the fourth phase, which is often the most difficult. It is called Adjustment.

In the Adjustment phase leaders are finally forced to make real decisions. Based upon the research done in Assessment, the profile created through Identification and the new plan established in Vision Development, it is now time for real action. The theoretical and theological meet the practical.

It is not enough to simply come up with a plan. I have seen far too many churches work through a Vision Development process, come up with pithy and clever banners and bumper stickers and then never put anything into action. One of the reasons I believe this occurs is they miss this crucial next step. The last phase is Implementation which I will discuss next time. Many want to hop right to that and at best, they often see short term results only. That is because they did not prepare the people and the pathway first. Adjustment does that.

In the Adjustment phase, certain things might have to be stopped or started. People, programs, projects, budgets and more might all need to be moved and tweaked in order for the actual vision plan to work. This process includes both spiritual and practical adjustment. This level of honesty and leadership requires courage and faith and frankly, guts.

It is crucial that a legitimate Assessment and Identification phase be carried out to prepare the church for the most objectively biblical process at this stage possible. Adjustment cannot be based on subjective opinion. That is how wars begin. Instead it must be based upon the careful study and teaching of Scripture already conducted in these earlier phases leading to the development of the new plan. That provides the best chance for people to understand why change is needed and what change is going to need to take place.

I strongly encourage you to bring your lay leaders along with you during this entire process so that when this point hits, they are on the same page with you. Teach and warn your people about the process that is taking place so they will be ready also. Then, based upon the best knowledge you could research, begin to change those things that will sit on the tracks and prevent the train from moving forward.

You must develop clear pathways to defined standards and outcomes. But then you must actually determine and engage in a process to walk down those paths. How many obstacles stand in the way? What are they? What has to be done to remove them? Adjustment means I identify these existing barriers and start and stop to get them out of the way for the vision plan to be implemented. Sometime read Isaiah 62:10. Hear the prophet declare how the stones must be removed so a highway can be built up for the people. Stone removal. I call that real Adjustment!

The Phases of Church Leadership: Vision Development

I am continuing a series of posts concerning five phases a church needs to learn and experience in order to either move toward or remain in a state of growth and health. These phases form a never-ending loop that should be repeated over and over again. The more intentional church leaders are at working through these five, the more intentional the focus and coordination of their ministry will be.

I have already introduced the first two phases. Churches need to work through Assessment and Identification. Next, based on the study and reaffirmation of the biblical standards for the church, the data and observations from the Assessment conducted, and the new profile of Identification developed, it is time for the third phase: Vision Development.

In a series of previous posts I shared several critical abilities for missional church leaders. I recommend you go back and read them. These abilities are actually key strategies and steps for Vision Development. In the way of a reminder, I wrote about the need to: Understand the Mission, Establish a Biblical Vision, Build Bridges of Leadership, Handle Change and Conflict Well, and Pray with a Missional Heart. Let me add to those discussions here.

It is vital to not only recognize the difference between the mission and a vision as a leader, but to help the average member in the pew to get it also. In this discussion, the mission is the unchanging purpose of God for His church while the vision is the specific, contextual plan to fulfill that mission. Think of train tracks (predetermined, unchanging pathway to a predetermined destination) versus the actual building of a train. What specific “train” needs to be built in order to run on the rails in your context?

Through Assessment and Identification, the church defines the biblical principles by which the church should operate as well as an understanding of who the church actually is and how removed from that scriptural ideal it actually is. This plumb line provides the end goal for the current vision.

Then through backward planning, church leaders can map out the necessary programs and even special projects that will move them down the tracks. These vision components must be based upon the discovered biblical foundations and evaluated by whether they lead to the proper quantitative, and more importantly, qualitative, goals that ultimately lead to the end goal.

For example, we are not always certain whether large numbers alone are pleasing to the Lord. We can be certain, however, that personal transformation leading to fruit and producing discipleship, brings glory to God (the ultimate end goal). Church leaders, therefore, should define what personal transformation means, how to identify it and what it looks like. Then, a plan of what needs to be taught and practiced in order for that to occur can be determined. Finally, the needed programming and event schedule and curriculum can be established. This process not only provides the parameters for planning but the criteria for further assessment as well. Train building, not bumper car collisions!

Once the leadership is on board and the train is ready to roll, phase four kicks in. This is often the most difficult phase. It is called Adjustment. Next time!